Five sleepers with a chance to make the roster

Posted Jul 25, 2014

Senior writer Tim Twentyman gives five sleepers a chance to make the roster.

Training camp starts in three days and with it begins the pursuits of fringe players trying to make the roster.

It’ll be a tough roster to crack with 19 returning starters, a few key free agent acquisitions, a number of solid reserves and a full crop of draft picks all vying for 53 spots.

Tight end Joseph Fauria and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle proved themselves a season ago, however, and there is always room for sleepers who come in and make plays.

So, who has a chance to be this year’s Fauria and Waddle?

Cornelius Lucas, T, 6-9, 328

Lucas wasn’t able to fully participate in spring workouts as he recovered from a stress fracture in his foot. He believes questions about his health are the reason he wasn’t drafted in the first place.

Lucas will be ready to go on Monday and no one will be able to miss his 6-foot-9 frame.

The Lions made him a priority free agent signing after the draft and love his potential with that big frame and athleticism.

“He had 26 straight starts at Kansas State,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said of Lucas this offseason. “We think he has a chance to be like a Waddle sort of guy. We’re going to try him at left and right tackle. The guy was productive (at Kansas State).”

The Lions have an opening for a fourth tackle behind Riley Reiff, LaAdrian Waddle and Corey Hilliard. Lucas has a good shot to make the 53.

James Franklin, QB, 6-2, 230

James FranklinQB James Franklin (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Franklin is a big, athletic quarterback who brings a little different dimension to the Lions offense with his ability to run the football and get outside the pocket.

Kellen Moore has been the Lions’ third quarterback the last two seasons, but this is a new coaching staff and there are no loyalties there.

It’s unclear if the Lions will even keep three quarterbacks on the roster, but Franklin will be given every opportunity – along with Moore – to win that third spot in the preseason.

The third quarterback runs the scout team in the regular season and Franklin’s ability to run and get outside of the pocket could help the Lions prepare to play the likes of Cam Newton and other versatile quarterbacks. That could play to his advantage as well.

Chad Abram, FB, 6-0, 236

Jed Collins looks to be the favorite to win the Lions’ fullback role this season as a three-year professional with ties to offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi from their time together in New Orleans.

If Abram is going to make the roster, he’ll have to let his athleticism shine through in camp. Abram is the fastest of the fullbacks and is probably the most explosive as a running back and receiver.

There’s a lot more to playing fullback than that, however, especially in this offense.

“Having a fullback will add a few different wrinkles that we didn’t have last year,” running backs coach Curtis Modkins said.

“Fullback is a thinking man’s position. It’s not the old time every play is an iso or lead play. There’s some thinking and adjustments they have to make on the run … and I’m fortunate because we have some really sharp players.”

If Abram proves he’s trustworthy, and lets his athleticism shine, he has a shot.

Jerome Couplin, S, 6-2, 215

Note Couplin’s size. He’s a big safety with wide shoulders and will look even bigger when the pads come on next week.

Can he cover and will he be in the right spots? Those are the biggest hurdles for rookie safeties, especially ones coming from a small school like William & Mary.

He’s going to be good in the box, but he has to prove he can do everything else that comes with playing the position if he wants to beat out veteran Isa Abdul-Quddus and DeJon Gomes for that fourth safety spot behind Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo and Don Carey.

Corey Fuller, WR, 6-2, 204

Fuller spent last season on the practice squad after the Lions drafted him as a raw prospect in the sixth round.

The former track star turned receiver had to spend a season building up his strength and learning how to stay low in his route tree.

He has good size and terrific speed and could find himself in the mix for one of the final outside receiver spots if he can make a few plays early in camp and catch a few eyes in the preseason.